Tag Archives: red kingdom

Harvest Bite

To celebrate its full release,  today I’m sharing an excerpt from chapter one of A Harvest of Dreams & Embers, Eight Kingdoms book five! The second half of the saga begins with Merlin…and mayhem.

 

Chapter One

Sleep had come to Spring, though it did not belong there.

Myrddin advanced alone through the stillness of the Wyrdwood and found even the birds sunk into slumber. Drowsiness had descended, and with it a sacred silence that brought disharmony, reducing the promise of the branches to the ghost of leaves. There had never been such lethargy in immortal Spring before, but the season had traded away its show of splendor for somnolence.

King though he was, even Myrddin was tangled in threads of torpor and his own sudden awareness of the presence that incited them. Why here, why now? Father?

Yes.

With the feeling of acknowledgment came a summons Myrddin could not deny, though he wanted to. No other being was so perilous to him, had ever cost him so much, as his own father. And now, now that he finally had Kas for his own…

Neither the time nor the place of the visit pleased him, but Myrddin could no more deny the summons of the one who had sired him than the buds could refuse the spring.

His heart clenched. Had he regained what he’d lost only to have it taken away? Kas. All his desires were bound up in the single syllable of that name. He would not give his lover up again, no matter what demand the god of the wild had for him.

Myrddin found his father at the heart of the forest, wrapped around its most ancient oak. He knew it was his father, but Myrddin had never seen him like this. As the Stag of the wood, yes, carrying the moon in the spaces between his antlers. As a mist, or in a man’s shape, but like this?

The god of the wood had come to him as a dragon. His father was a moss-backed beast with leafed and feathered wings whose span stretched beyond Myrddin’s sight. He was the wildest and most beautiful of his kind Myrddin had ever seen, but he was a dragon all the same.

Did that mean…he was no longer a god?

There was a shiver in the branching pinions, a sibilant trembling of feathers. A sound like silk being stretched too tight and too quickly snapped through the air as the great wings beat once then settled.

“Father…” The dragon opened his mouth and breathed out the scent of somnolent blossoms, but not a single word in answer. “Father?”

He resisted the urge to go to one knee as he resisted the drowsy pressure of the air, a sudden urge to yawn. Silence greeted him. More than before, stronger the closer he came to the unsteady orb of his father’s eye. He recognized the source of the unnatural sleep with a familiarity that reminded him of his own long-vanished past.

‘My little shoot.’

Not his father’s voice, but the memory of his mother’s, brushed Myrddin with a faint prickling of dread. This sleep was akin to his own lost winter slumber. The sleep that had taken him at Samhain each year, before Spring had had a rite, or a kingdom… When winter had come to him as to the blossoms and dropped him down the well of the sleeping season.

His father blinked one enormous eye, and the flickering facets drew Myrddin in. The eye became a world, a universe in the shape of an ochre orb. “I forget who I was before the birth of this moment.

 

Want more? A Harvest of Dreams & Embers is currently available at Pride Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers. Grab your copy today!

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Hunter, Prey

Because context is key to the marvel that is #1lineWed, and because I haven’t shared anything in particular from this monstrosity I know you’re all waiting for…a piece of the upcoming book five of the Eight Kingdoms series! (With which I am currently arguing about its title.)

Saoirse watched the Red King stride up the curve of the snow, down over the crest of frosted dunes and into the darkness that reflected off the surface of the water.

Without ripples, without waves, it still lapped at the motionless shore, and gave away thus that it was water and not frozen. The deep was black and still, but as the Red King approached, the surface of the water was broken by a small, black head – and then by more, and more.

Selkies.

She had playmates and companions among their number. She had been warned in the days just past that this time was coming, but she hadn’t believed. Her own trust in Macsen Cadoc was absolute, and that there was enough worry in any being who owed allegiance to him to bring them here, to the edge of everything, to the last of all shores, hoping to escape some unknown catastrophe…

She hadn’t believed.

Quiet, stepless, without a splash, her special friend among the selkies was out of the water and by her side, and Saoirse watched her lean closer without allowing any expression on her face.

“Hello, Líadan.”

“Saoirse, didn’t I say we were going? You shouldn’t have come. Shouldn’t have come!”

“You did intend to leave without goodbye, then? I thought you were my friend!”

The edges of Líadan’s soft, black body went stiff and salty, licked by the waves, but she was still. “Your friend. Yes, I am that. But this is my family, and all of my kin, and I will not be the one who is left behind. There are stories enough of last stands and hopeless cases, and not for you or our friendship will I become one of them.”

“I didn’t ask for that, did I? Only for goodbye. Which is nothing but polite, if you cared.” Saoirse squinted and peered through one eye, but her friend didn’t seem bothered in the least about her frustrated tone. “The Red King -”

“Will let us go. He’ll see right through excuses, promises, platitudes…and he’ll talk of fear, and how little it should matter to those such as us. But though we are Hunters, we remember. We were of dark Summer first. Midsummer’s midnight moon is our provenance and our place.  Not in this dark, this winter land of blood and violence. Not for a people of mothers, daughters – not though he sheltered us when our place in the world was taken away.”

Saoirse stared back at Líadan, understanding and confused both. She remembered fear from her time in the human world…and from those first hours, alone here, wondering if she would be kept. If she could stay. Not now. The sting of the emotion, the feel of it, was all but lost to her.

“Líadan I don’t understand. You’re Hunters. How could you not belong here? What does anything else matter? How could you have belonged to Summer? This is the Hunter’s kingdom, this is…”

Líadan shook her head, had only black laughter to offer, a sound as dark and deep as the matte shine of her eyes. “You do not understand. But then, you aren’t one thing or another, are you?” Her smile showed pointed teeth. “Not yet.”

“It’s not fair. I learn so many things, but they’re never enough. Not enough to understand even my friends, and the Red King -” She made a despairing sound and shook her head at the selkie’s continued laughter.

“Girl creature. Something will call you, one thing or another, meaning or madness…and you will find your way. I have that faith in you.”

“Hmm… But I’m tired of waiting. Time is different here and still I’m tired of it.”

“The mortal in you is murmuring now. You are so young – so young! I’m still a child in the water, among my people, but I barely remember being young like you. Before I could slip the sea, leave this shape behind… Saoirse, haven’t you felt it? Your soul is slipping away. A little longer, and a little longer…and then the empty space will have to be filled in by something else. What have you chosen?”

Saoirse blinked into Líadan’s eyes, blinked at her own reflection there, and then smiled.

“Blood of course. The Hunt, and its power.”

“Have you.” Líadan blinked, and the smile on her face stretched wide, then wider. Saoirse frowned as her reflection in the black eyes distorted, changing shape, size…something.

“Saoirse, I think you will surprise yourself with how much emptiness will be left behind when you lose your human self for the last time. I think you will surprise yourself with how little blood will fill the space inside you. You are not the Red King. Macsen Cadoc is of his own kind, and it is not yours. You may walk in the shadow, but I do not think it will be this shadow…or his.”

Saoirse crouched, reached forward and pet the flat, smooth space between Líadan’s ears. “What, then? Whose? I’ve been hunting, hunting without knowing – do you know my prey? Tell me!”

The selkie closed her eyes to night-dark slits. “I see a pale shadow behind you. Yes. Not red, but stripped of all color. A pale shadow…in a pale land. White flowers beneath a black moon.”

Saoirse contemplated this, but she had never heard of a place like that. She knew of eight hidden kingdoms outside the mortal world, and none of them sounded like the place Líadan was describing to her.

“When I find it, will I know what I’ve been looking for? What I’ve been missing since – forever?”

Even before I came here. The thought left Saoirse agitated, but without an outlet, just like many other such thoughts. They were becoming more and more frequent as time passed…and didn’t. As it washed over her, and left her unchanged, as the freezing ocean water moved over Líadan’s smooth, seal-black back.

“Saoirse, it is nearly time.”

“Time -”

“For us to go.”

“You…will be safe, won’t you?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps not. These are dangerous times, and there may be no safety for anyone, anywhere. But we will make the attempt. If things change, and what is broken is fixed, perhaps we will even return…and I will find you then, and see what you have become, and be, even as I will be far from you, your friend.”

“As I’ll be yours! I promise, Líadan. Friends, always.”

The wide grin Líadan wore as she slipped into the sea sealed the promise, and Saoirse stepped back from the water. She slipped into a shadow, then over the crackling, frosted dunes, closer to where the Red King was. She could hear his voice, and some other, and she wanted to know if Líadan had been right.

Would he be angry? Or would he let them go? Or both, maybe. She was curious, but not afraid. There was no violence, not even the anticipation of it, in the wind tonight.

Anyway, it was fun. Hunting Macsen, Red King that he was. She would tell Bran about it later, and he would laugh with her. He understood better than the rest, and regardless, she had to stay close to him.

There was an oath that she’d made, and it remained unfulfilled, but she understood oaths better now.

Saoirse took another step, then another, until she could hear clearly. Yes, she would tell Bran…even though Macsen was Bran’s, and therefore not her prey. Again, she faced the frustration of not knowing who, or what, it was that she was meant to be hunting.

Líadan had not answered her, but now, watching, listening, she wondered if the Red King would.

 

Want more? Book five is coming soon, but you can grab the first four books here

Shadow Bite

To celebrate today’s early release at Pride Publishing,  today I’m sharing an exclusive excerpt from chapter one of The Shadow Road, Eight Kingdoms book four! 

Enjoy this crunchy little bite, and of course, if you want more, grab a copy here!

Through the barrow, across the ice, over the bridge and the river’s black water, Macsen ran quickly, following the promise of heat. Summer fire was making its presence known in the middle of Winter, fire and coiling smoke and the scent of golden power.

A smile crawled across his face, eager with anticipation. He knew where Bran was now, and he stalked around the palace, through the green of the orchard. Yes. Yes. He could see through the open spaces of the entryway that Bran was at his forge, muttering to himself, shaping the precious metals Macsen had left for him with practiced movements.

Bits of work were scattered here and there on tables. The beginnings of what might be a silver bridle, golden baubles filled with fire and a dozen gossamer lengths of chain were coiled and piled on each other.

Macsen’s attention was drawn to Bran’s hands, the smoothness of their movements, the easy way his fingers shaped the softness of the gold. There was something sensual in the motions, in his perfect focus, the way his eyes didn’t wander at all and a tiny wrinkle deepened between his brows. The intensity of his attention to his work was such that he still hadn’t noticed Macsen’s presence.

He almost took a step forward, arm outstretched, but caught sight of his own fingers, dark with bloodstains, and grimaced. Quietly, still unnoticed, he slipped away, up to their room and the bath. Macsen stripped out of silk as bloody as his body, and the water went red as he stepped into it. It grew redder still as he bathed, scrubbed gore from his face, his hands, even his hair.

When it flowed clear, he lingered for only a moment before he grabbed a towel and wandered back into the bedroom, considering. Talaith was gone. He would have to do everything himself, or find some other servant, and even the thought made him scowl. When Macsen opened the wardrobe, it was empty, nothing hung. His clothes, where were they? But then she did that too, didn’t she? He’d have to go down into the storage closets and find everything there.

He wrapped his towel around his waist, pushed wet hair back out of his eyes and contemplated a secondary irritation. His comb, where was that? He scowled, then turned to face the door as it opened.  It wasn’t Bran, he knew that instantly, and who else would dare? But he saw first not the one who had come, but what they had brought with them—his clothes, and things glinting silver. Momentarily, a familiar face emerged from behind the pile.

“Saoirse! What are you doing?”

“I… Since Talaith… I thought you…” And she stopped dead, but still peered up at him, curious and perhaps confused. “Should I leave? I didn’t mean to be trouble, but I helped Talaith sometimes and I never once saw you come down where everything is, so I thought you would need…” Again she stopped. “Red King?”

He had too many thoughts for words, and only shook his head and turned away. Whatever she thought of that, he didn’t know. Her stillness dissipated and she came into the room, began to lay things out on the bed. Tunics and trousers in red and silver, blue and gold, more choices than he needed and some that weren’t even his clothes.

“Girl—”

“There’s things for Bran, too. He likes new clothes after he’s been working. And I brought combs and brushes, but not jewelry. Bran doesn’t need it, not with your gift, and I haven’t seen you wear anything but your crown. Do you, Red King? If you do I’ll bring it next time but—”

Next time. Have you appointed yourself my keeper, Saoirse?” But he was already laughing before she could answer, laughing and shaking his head. “Do what you please, I won’t complain. You’ve done well. I don’t know where anything is, not after so long. But how did you know? How did you know I needed you?”

“I told you, I helped Talaith—and I was watching for you. Bran asked me to. He said he gets distracted when he’s working. He said he wouldn’t notice when you’d come back. I don’t know why he wanted to know, it’s not like you wouldn’t go to him first. You always go to him first. But you looked like you wanted to surprise him and you were very bloody, so I haven’t said anything, not anything. I went downstairs instead.” She wrinkled her nose. “Red King, tell him please that I did notice, and it’s only your fault that I didn’t say.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You think he’ll be angry?”

“Not Bran. It’s not easy to make him angry—you know that.”

Macsen studied her more closely when she smiled. Subtle changes that he had missed were making themselves known to him now, and he was…confused. Were her features sharper, her teeth more pointed?

She is not the same as she was.

“Girl, you’re changing.”

“I am. I am!”

“And you like it.”

“Yes.”

“Good.” And as if he had never said anything else, he returned to the previous subject. “Since you’ve done so well, this will be your responsibility. You’ll be our handmaid, mine and Bran’s.” He met her gaze. “You don’t mind? You were a princess once.”

She dimpled, grinning, and he saw that, yes, her teeth were sharper. “This is more fun, Red King.”

Week Twenty – The Shadow Road

Friday Fun is back! For this week’s, we’re off to the Eight Kingdoms for a taste of sexy goodness. Book four, The Shadow Road, is currently available for preorder…and full of temptations!  

(And of course, remember, this sort of Friday Fun is NSFW!)

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theshadowroad_800

From The Back Cover: In the wake of Dealla’s latest atrocity, Macsen has learned a lesson he will never forget. To love is to fear, and he intends to make sure that his fear never comes to pass. Bran is less than pleased with being left behind while Macsen hunts Dealla, but he has trouble of his own to distract him. An unknown ability is growing in him—magic that has nothing of Summer in it. Disturbed, Bran convinces Macsen to come with him to question his mother. Only she knows who Bran’s father is, and the secret half of his bloodline is the most likely source of his new power.

Elenn agrees to Bran’s request, but for her own reasons. Faelan, one of the gancanagh, is to be Bran’s guide to his father, and she has ordered him to seduce the Red King and prove his love false. Faelan has no desire to follow through, but also no choice. His queen has commanded, and he must obey.

Macsen and Bran aren’t the only lovers whose feelings are being put to the test. After five thousand years of separation, Myrddin has no choice but to accept Kas’ help in restoring the spring and its rite to the mortal world. The difficulty is that he wants Kas to desire him for himself, not out of necessity, and the whole of reality is standing in his way.

Where is the line that divides determination from desire? Love is power—but is it enough?

Excerpt

Macsen ran his fingers through the wild mess of Bran’s hair, bent to his mouth and pressed Bran back against the table behind him, back and back until he was sprawled half across it. “Did you miss me? You taste like you missed me.”

Bran arched up into his arms, hooked a leg around Macsen’s legs and held him close for a deeper kiss.

“Does that mean yes? Bran… I missed you, Bran.” His hands were cold, cold like they hadn’t been since the beginning. His mouth, too, was cold—cold against Bran’s mouth, his throat, his collarbone, his shoulder. He could tell just by how hot Bran felt against him. “Missed you… Missed you.”

He wrapped his arms around Bran’s body, curled himself over him and kissed the curve of his ear. “Tell me you’re well, Anwylyd.” And again, against the line of his throat, “I missed you.”

“I’m fine. Fine. Better now that you’re home.” He turned a little in the circle of Macsen’s arms. “I missed you too.” He lifted his mouth expectantly, and Macsen pressed closer, kissed him again more deeply. “Hmm…” Bran pulled back. “You’re so cold.”

“Yes. And you are hot.” Macsen drew Bran up, kicked the bench out of the way and pushed him back onto the table. Bits of gold scattered, glinting in the firelight and ringing as they rolled and fell.

“Not here. You’re going to make a mess, Macsen.”

“Yes, let’s make a mess.” Macsen ran his tongue over the line of Bran’s throat as he tilted his head back, down along his collarbone to his shoulder. “A beautiful mess.” Faintly, the pattern of his own teeth was marked there, the scar of the bite he had left to heal on its own at Bran’s request, when they’d begun their courtship, when he’d had to leave…

As it had every time since the first time he’d noticed the scar, the sight filled him with desire, woke all his possessive instincts. Maybe no one else could see it, but it didn’t matter. Indelible, it beckoned him, called to him. This time when he gave in to his own desire and bit deep, seeking Bran’s blood, it was just in that place, aligning the new bite with the marks of the old.

Bran shuddered in his arms, groaned and twitched his hips up against Macsen’s body. “The floor—everything is going to—Macsen, you…ohhh…” But Bran couldn’t make the words into a sentence, and his body betrayed the truth of his desire. He didn’t relax his embrace, and one moaning exhalation after another came hot against Macsen’s skin. His fingers crawled up Macsen’s back and held tight.

I’ll help you pick everything up. Later. Now, make more sounds for me.”

Macsen’s voice was rough with blood, with the feral rush that was the result of such a feast as he had made for himself in the mortal world. Winter’s strength was restless in him, his own power was building on the heels of it, and beside all those things the wanton willingness of his lover—beloved, beautiful, groaning under him, muttering his name again and again… It flushed him with lust.

“Is there anything you wouldn’t give me, Bran?” He murmured the words against the soft heat of Bran’s throat. “Anything I could ask to which you might say no?”

There was no answer but moaning, the soft exhalation of hot breath as Macsen slipped his hands under Bran’s tunic. Bran moved in his arms, wrapped his legs around Macsen’s back, reached up into his hair with both hands.

Macsen knew what he wanted, all of what he wanted, and laughed all but silently against the curve of his shoulder. “A mess, you said. I will make a mess of you, and everything, everything. I’m going to take you right here.” He pushed Bran back onto the table. There was a clatter and chiming as more metal fell to the ground and Bran lay back across the empty space, his fingers grasping at Macsen’s arms.

For an instant he looked back over his shoulder, trying to see what had fallen, but Macsen took hold of his trousers in both hands and tore them from him—ripped the laces and the soft sidhe silk right down the seams. Then he bent and bit at the curve of Bran’s hip, kissed a line along the shallow curve of his pelvis, nipped the soft skin of his thigh and set the blood flowing. It made a red stream that he followed greedily with his tongue.

Moans, and “More,” and “More,” came from Bran, and Macsen wet his fingers with oil and pressed two of them deep. There was a dark flush on Bran’s cheeks, his throat, his chest, and Macsen knew there would be fire soon, the beckoning heat Bran could never restrain. He slipped his other hand from Bran’s thigh to his cock, rubbed his thumb over the head.

Fire reached out and wrapped around his arms, his waist, slipped into his clothes and under them, tugging at his skin. He resisted the urge to give in at the first touch, resisted while filaments of heat licked at his cock, brushed over his nipples, slipped past his lips on his every breath. He could feel Bran’s want of him in every touch, and there was pleasure in each one of those demanding caresses.

Macsen bent and took the head of Bran’s cock into his mouth, just for the taste of him, and his hands darted down to cup the back of Macsen’s head. He licked his lips and stood straight again, pulled Bran the tiniest bit closer, right to the edge of the table, and replaced his fingers with his cock. He didn’t say a word, gave no warning, and Bran gasped under him, clawed at his shoulders, pulled himself tight against Macsen’s body and let out one long cry. It was just what Macsen wanted, his name drawn out into an unrecognizable sound.

“Open up for me just like that. So good, Bran.”

Bran shook, shuddered, and trembled finally as he relaxed. Everything was heat, and the fire clutched at Macsen’s skin, but Bran was so tight around his cock he couldn’t move. The pleasure was a torment. It was so hot—so hot—there was just one distraction, and he held Bran against his body and bit deep into his throat, sucked up the red, dark blood.

The first mouthful was enough to take Bran shuddering over the edge, all but untouched, heart speeding under Macsen’s tongue, all of him shaking and his cock throbbing its white essence in pulses between them. His body gripped Macsen’s cock almost painfully, then relaxed while he tightened his fingers in Macsen’s hair again and again.

He stayed still and let Bran ride out his climax, took slow mouthfuls from the brilliant spill at his throat. Brighter. Brighter than it had been since they had left Summer. Was it the power Bran used for his work?

So much sun.

Slowly, Macsen pulled back, then thrust deeper, again and again. He felt desire as it sneaked back into Bran’s body, up his calves and his trembling thighs, into the tautness of his buttocks and the sudden tenseness of his hips. The shadow of fire trembled across his skin as he arched back, flickered over his abdomen, his chest. There was fire in his blood, too, as it streamed over Macsen’s tongue and down his throat.

Summer, it was Summer green and gold, rich juices and wine. He knew he should pull back but Bran’s fingers were tight against his scalp, his skin. The heat of his cock was rigid and twitching against Macsen’s belly, and his hips rocked back against every thrust, begging for more. His whole body was begging for more, his eyes closed and his mouth open for wordless groans.

Faster. Deeper. Harder, until he had to hold Bran still with both hands, grip his hip and shoulder to keep him still against his mouth. The tightness and the fire, the almost-pain where Bran pulled his hair, dug his fingers into Macsen’s back… So good. Pleasure overwhelmed him, one sharp pulse after another spilling out of him and into Bran. Bran cried out a little, shivered, then begged.

“Please, I’m so close, please.” He tugged harder at Macsen’s hair, and Macsen slipped his hand between them, stroked Bran’s cock—but he still pulled, gasped, demanded, and the heaving curve of his throat was too much vulnerability, too much temptation for Macsen to resist. He bit deeper, took more, and Bran locked his legs behind Macsen’s hips and groaned out his release.

Want more? Preorder your copy of The Shadow Road!